The northern Mexican gartersnake may occur with other native gartersnake species and can be difficult for people without herpetological expertise to identify. With a maximum known length of 44 inches (in) (112 centimeters (cm)), it ranges in background color from olive to olive-brown to olive-gray with three stripes that run the length of the body. The middle dorsal stripe is yellow and darkens toward the tail. The pale yellow to light-tan lateral stripes distinguish the Mexican gartersnake from other sympatric (co-occurring) gartersnake species because a portion of the lateral stripe is found on the fourth scale row, while it is confined to lower scale rows for other species. Throughout its rangewide distribution, the northern Mexican gartersnake occurs at elevations from 130 to 8,497 feet (ft) (40 to 2,590 meters (m)) (Rossman et al. 1996, p. 172). The northern Mexican gartersnake is considered a riparian obligate (restricted to riparian areas when not engaged in dispersal behavior) and occurs chiefly in the following general habitat types: (1) Source-area wetlands [e.g., cienegas (mid-elevation wetlands with highly organic, reducing (basic, or alkaline) soils), stock tanks (small earthen impoundment), etc.]; (2) large river riparian woodlands and forests; and (3) streamside gallery forests (as defined by well-developed broadleaf deciduous riparian forests with limited, if any, herbaceous ground cover or dense grass).
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